City hears pitch to turn trash into energy

New technology uses plasma to turn waste into energy-rich gas

Posted: Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Forget Snettisham. Juneau's trash could be used to power the city.

The Juneau Assembly heard a sales pitch Tuesday from Don West, a vice president of Plasma Waste Recycling, about turning the city's solid waste into energy.

The basic idea is that waste is put into a reactor that uses hot plasma to turn trash into an energy-rich gas, which can then be used to make electricity.

There's wide interest in his company's technology, West said, but so far no plant has been built to put that technology to use.

Assembly members quizzed West on the cost of building a plant and whether Juneau produces enough waste to make it feasible.

West did not provide an exact dollar amount for building a plant but said it's cost effective.

He said that Juneau, which produces about 30,000 tons a year of solid waste, does not produce enough trash but could work with other cities in Southeast Alaska to come up with enough waste to make building a plant feasible.

The city is currently working towards implementing a consultant's recommendations for dealing with solid waste. The plan calls for more city involvement with solid waste removal and increased recycling efforts. Juneau's privately run landfill in Lemon Creek has an estimated 30 years left before it is full.

Tuesday's presentation was at the behest of Assembly member Randy Wanamaker, who said the city needed to consider converting solid waste into energy as a way to deal with the problem.

Wanamaker said the plasma waste plant offered potential advantages to recycling that include eliminating the city's landfill and calling for less government involvement.

• Contact reporter Alan Suderman at

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